The governor of the US state of Virginia has declared a state of emergency following a violent attack in the city of Charlottesville, that has left at least one person dead after a white nationalist rally.

The incident occurred on Saturday afternoon, local time, as a crowd of people understood to be counter-protesters left a local park where white nationalists had gathered earlier in the day.

Eyewitnesses say that the crowd was moving through the city’s downtown mall when a grey sports car accelerated towards them, mowing down a number of people and striking two other vehicles.

Reporter Robert Armengol, who was present at the scene, later said:

“It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. After that it was pandemonium. The car hit reverse and sped and everybody who was up the street in my direction started running.”

Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer told CNN that at least one person was killed in the attack, with numerous others taken to hospital.

The driver of the vehicle is in custody.

Declaring a state of emergency, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe said:

“It is now clear that public safety cannot be safeguarded without additional powers, and that the mostly out-of-state protesters have come to Virginia to endanger our citizens and property.”

The demonstration, which has been called the largest gathering of white nationalists in recent years, was organised to protest the planned removal of a statue of civil war general Robert E. Lee from a city park that once bore his name.

The unrest in the city began on Friday night when a large group of protesters billing themselves as Unite The Right gathered at the University of Virginia, and tensions further flared the next day when white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed in the park.

The rally quickly spilled over into violence, and was declared an unlawful assembly, with police and Virginia National Guard officers clearing the park and arresting stragglers. The car attack took place at around 1pm, as crowds continued to disperse.

First Lady Melania Trump took to Twitter to declare “no good comes from violence”, while President Donald Trump called the situation in Charlottesville “sad”, adding: “We ALL must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”

He later addressed the media:

Source: New York Times
Image: Getty Images / Win McNamee